Indonesian chief security minister Wiranto accompanied by national police chief Tito Karnavian and national army commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto -Photo: TheInsiderStories.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesian Immigration officials have deported four Australian citizens for allegedly participating in pro-independence protests in Sorong, West Papua, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affair Wiranto said in a press conference today (09/2). They have also been hit with a six-month travel ban which will prevent them from returning to Indonesia.

“The four Australians were identified as Tom Baxter, 37, Cheryl Melinda Davidson, 36, Danielle Joy Hellyer, 31, and Ruth Irene Cobbold, 25, were detained by security forces after joining protests outside the mayor’s office at Sorong in the province of West Papua on August 27,” the minister said.

“They were holding small Morning Star flags – the flag used by the Free Papua movement- in their hands. Also, they were riding on bikes alongside the protesters,” Wiranto explained.

Earlier, immigration directorate general spokesperson Ujo Sujoto said in a statement that the four Australian citizens have deported on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, through the Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong and flown in a Batik Air flight to Bali via Makassar.

Three of the Australians would then be flown to Australia on a Qantas flight on Monday night, except for Davidson, who is to be flown out on a Virgin Australian Airline flight on Sept. 4, Sujoto adds.

It said the four Australians were detained and escorted by Indonesian intelligence, police and immigration officials on a flight from Papua to Makassar on Batik Air. From there, they traveled to Denpasar, the capital of Bali.

The four had been in Sorong and planned to go to Raja Ampat since August 10, Sujoto said, because Baxter’s boat, which had originally sailed the quartet to Maluku, another tourist destination near Papua, had broken down.

Baxter, Hellyer, and Cobbold will be flown out of Bali on Monday evening at 10.25pm on Qantas flight QF44 to Sydney and they will arrive at 6.25am on Tuesday morning. While Davidson will fly out on Thursday at 3.45pm from Denpasar on a Virgin Australia flight to another Australian city.

The deportations are taking amid strengthening calls for a Papuan referendum on self-determination and accusations from authorities that “foreign parties” have been involved in the ongoing unrest in Papua and West Papua.

Wiranto said that his party was still working through deepening. It still coordinates with the Police, the State Intelligence Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On that basis, he has not been able to provide information on who the foreign party is intended.

But he mentioned that the Papuan separatist figure, Benny Wenda, was one of the masterminds of the riots in Papua and West Papua.

“Yes, it is clear. Benny Wenda is clear. He mobilized diplomatic, missed information mobilization, which is not true. That’s what he did in Australia, in England, and others,” he said, adding what Wenda did was a political strategy. Therefore, the government also handles it politically. However, the retired general said, the government had taken various steps to address security issues in Papua and West Papua.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Wiranto said, has appealed for calm, and asked national police chief Tito Karnavian and national army commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto to fly to Papua this afternoon. Their aim there was to carry out control and dialogue with several important figures in Papua. In fact, they plan to have a temporary office there for four to ten days, he adds.

“The presence of the top two institutions is none other than to provide security guarantees so that the situation and conditions return to calm. In addition, so that the community can carry out activities without anxiety,” he said.

Over the weekend, Jakarta Police arrested seven Papuan students and Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua spokesperson Surya Anta, accusing them of treason for taking part in a demonstration in front of the State Palace during which they and hundreds of other Papuan students demanded a referendum while carrying banned Morning Star flags, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.

In the provincial capital of Jayapura, 28 people have been arrested and named as suspects, and more face investigation, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said. They are suspects in cases of damaging and burning properties, violence, provocation, and looting after a protest in Jayapura on Thursday. The rioters set cars and buildings ablaze, including a local parliament office and a building housing the offices of the state-controlled telco firm, during the protest.

About 6,000 police and military personnel have been flown in to Papua to reinforce a region that already has a heavy military presence, due to decades of mostly low-level separatist conflict, Prasetyo said.

Four people were killed in Jayapura during protests last week, citing the city’s police chief, Antara said. At least one soldier and five civilians were killed in the rural town of Deiyai last week, among the deadliest of the latest demonstrations.

The authorities and activists have different accounts of what happened in Deiyai. An internet blackout across Papua has made verifying information difficult.

Papua and West Papua provinces, the resource-rich western part of the island of New Guinea, were a Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized UN-backed referendum in 1969.

The spark for the latest protests was a racist slur against Papuan students, who were hit by tear gas in their dormitory and detained in the city of Surabaya on the main island of Java on Aug. 17, Indonesia’s Independence Day, for allegedly desecrating a national flag.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com